Archive for February, 2012

Washington voters pass $2.6 billion in taxes for education

You did not see that headline last week, but you should have.

You may have read reports about levies in a particular district or county, but there was precious little attention paid to what happened all across the state. What happened was that voters overwhelmingly supported their local schools and voted for $2.6 billion in taxes to support education.

Let’s say it again: Voters overwhelmingly supported their local schools and voted for $2.6 billion in taxes to support education.

Out of 295 school districts, 157 went to their local communities seeking support to the tune of over $2.7 billion dollars in property taxes. Out of the 157 school districts that put levies on the ballot, 152 of them passed. In a time where we hear that voters will not support revenue, the local election results stand in stark contrast to that narrative.

In most cases, local dollars make up around 25% of the total operating costs of a school district. We are a far cry from local levies being about the “extras” they were originally designed to provide. As the economic crises drags on, the importance of local levies has increased. Local communities have responded to that crisis with overwhelming support for their schools.

Simple Majority, the gift that keeps on giving
It seems odd, but Washington state has a fondness for requiring super majorities when it comes to revenue. It used to be that local schools had to receive more than 60% of the vote to secure a local operating levy. Thanks to Simple Majority (also known as I-4204, passed in 2007) we returned to the most basic of democratic principles, majority rules. That means that 51 levies representing $1.2 billion have passed because of Simple Majority. That is $1.2 billion to support the students in those districts that they otherwise would not have received.

Our support for majority rule extends to the state Legislature, where the law currently requires two-thirds majority to raise revenue. The I-1053 lawsuit, which we filed along with the Washington Education Association and other plaintiffs in October, will have its first hearing in March. We hope that the combination of the McCleary ruling and the eventual ruling on I-1053 will clear the way to fund our schools at the level they need, and local voters seem prepared to support.

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Comparing the education budgets

With the release of the House Ways and Means Committee budget proposal yesterday, LEV has created a comparison chart between the Governor’s initial education budget proposal, the House Republican proposal, and the House Ways and Means Committee proposal.

Scroll down to see the early learning, K-12, and Higher education budget comparisons.

2012 Early Learning Supplemental Budget

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2012 K-12 Supplemental Budget

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2012 Higher Education Supplemental Budget
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*Any math errors are LEVS.

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House budget proposal responsive to McCleary decision

budget graphicThe House Ways and Means Committee released its supplemental budget proposal today, including less severe cuts for students than those proposed in the governor’s budget. While the House budget proposes $84.1 million in cuts to education overall, under the leadership of Chairman Ross Hunter, the House is clearly heeding the Supreme Court’s ruling that basic education should be protected from further cuts.

Nearly $60 million in cuts to higher education, however, will continue to impact our state’s students and families. With years of double-digit tuition increases, the reduction of the State Need Grant will limit options for low-income students seeking to succeed. This cut follows $600 million in reductions to higher education funding made already in this biennium.

“It is clear the House is taking the McCleary decision into account and prioritizing K-12 education,” said Chris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education Voters. “To succeed, our state’s kids need more education, not less. We can’t keep balancing the budget at the expense of higher education.”

In light of the recent Washington State Supreme Court ruling in McCleary v. Washington—the state is failing to meet its paramount duty to fund K-12 education—the House proposed $405 million in delayed payments to schools. By delaying payments for a few days until the next biennium, the House holds the line on more drastic cuts that would negatively affect our younger students’ futures.

The House proposal maintains school days, levy equalization, staff salaries and student support programs, like Navigation 101. It also provides funding for the expansion of WaKIDS, Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, a program that monitors and supports the development of kindergarten students, and an important part of Washington’s Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge award.

While it is less severe $21.8 million in cuts to K-12 will affect programs that ensure our teachers are the best they can be. Cuts include the elimination of math and science professional development and the teacher mentoring program BEST, Beginning Educator Support Team. Like us on Facebook

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Learn to be a better parent at Life Skills Parenting workshop

mom hugging childJoin ParentMap and the University of Washington for a seminar on building life skills for parents and children. At the day-long event, you can attend presentations and learn techniques aimed at teaching strategies to strengthen family dynamics, enhance parenting effectiveness and reduce stress at home.

Presentations will be on topics including inspiring real change, improving everyday moments with children, and best parenting practices for the 21st century. There will also be a demonstration of Dialectical Behavior Therapy principles in action.

Well-known professors and researchers of psychology will be presenting including:

  • Marsha Linehan, Professor of Psychology and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington and is Director of the Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics who developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT);
  • Liliana Lengua, director of the UW Center for Child and Family Well-Being, a child clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Washington;
  • Laura Kastner, clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington and author of several books on teen development;
  • Anthony DuBose, founding Member and President of the Evidence Based Treatment Centers of Seattle, and the Director of Training and Dissemination for Behavioral Tech, LLC

What: Life Skills Parenting Workshop
When: March 17, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Where: University of Washington, Kane Hall, Seattle
Cost: $49 in advance, $60 day of event

Register here.

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Summarizing Washington's teacher evaluation bill

Here’s a summary of SB 5895, Washington’s teacher evaluation bill. The Senate passed the bill this week 46 to 3. The bill is now in the House Education Committee. We know that there is a lot of information floating around right now in the media and the blogosphere. That’s why we, along with Stand for Children and Partnership for Learning created this summary.

SB 5895:

Establishes More Comprehensive, Thorough and Consistent Educator Evaluations

-Multiple measures of student growth data must be a substantial factor in teacher and principal evaluations in at least three of the eight criteria for evaluation. Student growth data can include a measure of performance across an instructional team or school.

– Student input and staff input may be allowed in teacher and principal evaluations respectively.

– Creates defined performance ratings:  (1) Unsatisfactory; (2) Basic; (3) Proficient; and (4) Distinguished

– Requires districts to adopt one of three frameworks adopted by OSPI.

Ties Educator Evaluation Outcomes to Human Resources Decisions

– Evaluations must be a factor in assignment and layoff policies, beginning in the 2015-16 school year.   The policies for doing so will be developed at the local bargaining table.

– Prevents unsatisfactory new teachers from receiving tenure.  New teachers rated unsatisfactory in their third year would be ineligible to obtain tenure, remaining on provisional, year-to-year status.

-Removes unsatisfactory veteran teachers from the classroom.  Teachers with more than five years of experience who are rated unsatisfactory for two consecutive years must be issued a notice of nonrenewal.

– Prevents probationary periods, during which teachers are working on an improvement plan of improvement, from being dragged out beyond the intended timeframe.

– Provides flexibility, allowing veteran teachers who have received ratings of 3 or 4 to receive comprehensive evaluations less frequently (once every 4 years), with improved short-form evaluations used in intervening years (similar to existing law).

Provides for Quality Professional Development

– Requires teachers, principals and superintendents to be trained on new evaluation systems prior to implementation.  OSPI must develop a training program with online elements, if they receive funding.

– Helps align professional development with performance evaluation criteria.  OSPI and ESDs must serve as clearinghouses for professional development opportunities that align with performance evaluation criteria.

Provides Time for Quality Implementation of New Evaluations

Establishes a three-year phase-in timeline for transitioning to the new evaluations between the 2013-14 and 2015-16 school years.

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Spokesman-Review: Teacher evaluation bill shows promise

From an editorial in the Spokesman-Review:

Immediately after the Washington Senate passed a bill (SB 5895) on teacher and principal evaluations Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Chris Gregoire sent out a tweet calling this “good news for our kids.”

We’re pleased with the bill’s passage and urge the House to follow suit, but its success will rest on rigorous follow-through by the state superintendent of public instruction, district superintendents, school boards and principals.

The bill sets forth four ratings for teachers and principals: 1, unsatisfactory; 2, basic; 3, proficient; and 4, distinguished. Unsatisfactory teachers would be placed on probation, then dismissed if they failed to improve. That’s better than the current pass/fail metric currently employed by districts under which virtually every teacher passes.

But the same leniency that undermines the credibility of the current system could arise again if, say, 90 percent of teachers and principals are deemed 3s and 4s. Similarly, the bill says the evaluations are to be a factor in layoff and reassignment decisions but doesn’t specify how much weight they are to be given. If it’s a tiny percentage, then the whole exercise is pointless.

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Support your local school levy on Tuesday!

Vote to support your local levy!

A levy to support your school district may be on your ballot, and the ballot is due Tuesday.

hand with ballotDespite substantial funding cuts, our public schools are still expected to prepare ALL of our children for success in college, job training, the workforce and life.

To cushion the impact on students, superintendents and local school boards across the state have made the tough decision to ask you to approve a school levy in certain districts on February 14th to help maintain the quality of education at your local schools.

Please support your local schools by voting YES on the supplemental school levy and/or bond campaign.

Thank you for supporting quality education in your community.
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The power is yours! Vote for your favorite "My Dream School" submission

“The walls would be blue. Why? Not because Beyoncé’s baby is named blue. Actually its because light blue helps students focus on what their teacher tells them to do, so they can get all A+’s.”

We are not exaggerating when we tell you how much fun judging this contest this was!

We received so many awesome, funny and thoughtful submissions to our “My Dream School” competition. Although we have selected our Grand Prize Winners in the video, Powerpoint, and drawing/essay categories, it was hard to narrow it down. So hard, in fact, we created the People’s Choice Awards, and we need your help! Vote for your favorite entries. Your choice just might be our People’s Choice Grand Prize Winner! To see the nominees for People’s Choice (and the Grand Prize Winning entries), head on over to our vote page and choose your favorite!

Share our page and encourage your friends and family to vote.

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Everett Herald: Put teeth into evaluations

This editorial was featured in the Everett Herald.

Stating the obvious, the state Supreme Court ruled recently that Washington is underfunding basic education, and must come up with a reliable revenue source to meet its constitutional duty.

But since our state Constitution also gives voters a direct voice in such decisions, through referendum and initiative, citizens must first be convinced that the money will be spent efficiently and effectively.

To that end, lawmakers need to add teeth to the teacher and principal evaluation system currently being piloted in 11 districts (including Snohomish). The sharper the teeth, the better.

Various ideas are reportedly under negotiation in Olympia, ranging from filling in details in the current law to requiring student test scores be a significant factor in evaluating teachers and principals, and having those evaluations count in employment decisions such as placement, transfers and, when necessary, layoffs.

For the good of our students, a compromise mustn’t result in half-steps. It should incorporate student growth measurements, when they become valid and reliable, into evaluations that reward great educators, point those who need improvement toward it, and move ineffective ones out of the system.

You know, just like meaningful evaluation systems do in other lines of work.

The system being piloted is a positive step forward simply for replacing a 25-year-old one that rates teachers either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Almost everyone passes. The new system has a four-tier rating scheme, but clear connections between performance and consequences have yet to be drawn.

Along those lines, we favor a proposal from several education-reform groups to require mutual agreement between a teacher, principal and superintendent before a teacher can be placed at a school. The absence of such a rule allows less-than-effective teachers to be moved from building to building, passing on a problem rather than dealing with it

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Comparing the House Republican and Governor's K-12 Budget

The House Republicans recently released their 2012 Supplemental K-12 Budget. When compared to Gov. Gregoire’s budget released late last year there are several differences. The House Republican proposal funds K-12 at a higher level than the Governor’s proposal. The majority of the funding differences are related to levy equalization funding and the House Republican budget not cutting four days from the school year.

Read the whole thing here:

(Disclaimer: Any math errors are our own)

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